Four Attributes That Motivate People to Create Change in their Neighbourhood

July 21, 2021

Our neighbourhoods matter to us. They sustain, fuel, and care for us. And of course, we want to give back in meaningful ways, especially when we notice issues that can be changed. 

So, how do we motivate people to create that change in their neighbourhoods? How do we motivate ourselves?

Through the Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) program, we saw leadership patterns that contributed to success. Through interviews with project leaders, we identified four attributes to look for and nurture when seeking change-making leaders.

Leverage Existing Skills

Many leaders in the NSG program leveraged the skills they had already acquired elsewhere to organize their NSG projects. The grants acted as the catalyst to initiate the projects by reducing financial barriers and helping to motivate leaders to put their skills into action.

Encouraged to Try

Seeing challenges as opportunities was an important attribute that project leaders shared. Some leaders challenged themselves to take risks while others were encouraged by their peers and mentors. What propelled their projects forward was the leaders’ willingness to try and potentially fail. 

Pursue Issue with Vision

Project leaders were inspired to create change for issues they cared about. Some had lived experience with a particular issue and some saw an issue in their neighbourhood they wanted to improve. What they held in common was a passion for change and the ability to identify solutions. 

Create Joy

One way that project leaders found success was through connecting their issues to activities that brought them joy. This could be by centering their actions around an activity they enjoy or finding joy within the process of building community and making a difference for their neighbours.

Results are from an evaluation conducted by the Morris J. Wosk Centre For Dialogue Strengthening Canadian Democracy Initiative to explore the relationship between Neighborhood Small Grants’ and democracy as part of a Systems Change Grant from the Vancouver Foundation. Neighbourhood Small Grants is a grassroots initiative administered by the Vancouver Foundation. The program helps build community and strengthen connections by providing grants of up to $500 for individuals with ideas to help connect and engage residents within their neighbourhood.

Dialogue Dispatch


Dialogue Dispatch is our community of practice newsletter where we share updates on our team's knowledge exchange activities alongside inspiring case studies, suggested readings and practical tools for people and organizations working to transform the field of democratic participation.

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